County officials assess N.J. police force consolidation efforts

County officials from around New Jersey were in Trenton Friday to hear about the potential benefits of merging municipal police departments.

Camden and Somerset counties already are considering how to form countywide police departments.

There are some obstacles confronting the consolidation effort, according to Camden County Freeholder Louis Cappelli.

“The biggest roadblock is trying to figure out the financing, and also trying to figure out some of the labor issues that might exist,” Cappelli said.

Cappelli added that when a countywide police force is formed, officers in smaller communities would not be sent to the city of Camden.

“The Camden City metro unit of the Camden county police department would patrol Camden city itself, not outside agencies or outside departments,” he said.

While combining local police departments can reduce costs, Rob Nixon with the state PBA, the police union, said that should not be the major reason to do it.

“The only thing it should be about is the public safety,” he said. “If the local government is having a hard time providing the pubic safety, it needs assistance from another entity. But that’s what it really should be about.”

The executive director of the New Jersey Association of Counties hopes the summit encourages more of the state’s 21 counties to consider police consolidation.

“In addition to Somerset and Camden County, you’ve got Bergen county taking a look at it,” said John Donnadio. “I think Union County mentioned that they’re going to start taking a look at the feasibility of this. So I think that maybe this will spark some interest … (officials may say) ‘Listen. if they’re looking at it in these other counties maybe we’ll take a look at it as well.'”

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